Striking staff at Hadassah hospital
Striking staff at Hadassah hospital. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi
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Jerusalem District Court Judge David Mintz yesterday instructed Hadassah Medical Center’s administration, the government and the other parties involved in trying to rescue the financially troubled hospital to come up with a recovery plan by April 24.

In the meantime, he extended the order he issued in February, which granted Hadassah protection from creditors, even as it continues to operate at a deficit.

“Anyone who was thinking he would be taking a vacation with the family during the intermediate days [of Passover] is mistaken, because the next hearing will be April 24. This is truly a matter of saving lives,” Mintz said. “I don’t know how the State of Israel will solve the problem if scores of nurses leave. It must give serious thought to the matter.”

Mintz’s decision to give the parties more time came two days after the Hadassah women’s organization warned in an urgent motion that it would not give the same financial support to the hospital if the government takes control of it.

“How can the government dare think it can put its hands on the assets registered in the plaintiff’s name, ask it to transfer control of the hospital it established and invested billions of shekels in over the years – and at the same time expect the plaintiff to continue contributing funds to the medical center?” Hadassah women’s organization demanded.

The organization was responding to the recommendations of the government’s Gabbay committee, which last week said the government should take over the hospital, which has run up a deficit of 1.7 billion shekels ($489 million).

Hadassah women’s organization said seizing its assets would have severe ramifications for Diaspora Jewish philanthropy to Israel. It blamed the government for the hospital’s financial state and said the Gabbay committee had offered no solution for righting the hospital’s finances.

“It is clear that without the continued support of the plaintiff, who is the full owner of the assets through which the hospital operates, the hospital cannot continue to operate,” the organization said.

The organization said it was willing to contribute “significantly greater amounts for the purposes of operating the medical center,” but conditioned that on the Israeli government’s “ceasing to discriminate against Hadassah, whose financial situation is close to the abyss.”

Hadassah women’s organization asked the court to order intensive negotiations that would include it, the hospital’s administration and trustees, and the government on a recovery. It blamed the government for the hospital’s financial problems, saying it imposed severe and costly regulations on it while refusing to provide it the same kind of financial support that public hospitals receive.

Mintz said Hadassah Medical Center’s trustees and receivers had to play a more active role in negotiations over a recovery plan. Nevertheless, he expressed optimism that the sides could reach an accord in the 11 days he gave them.

“I have the impression that the authorized parties, with the finance and health ministries, are interested in engaging in intensive talks with the other parties,” Mintz said. “Therefore, I see no need to issue orders.”

Avigdor Kaplan, who has been Hadassah Medical Center’s CEO since last May, recalled what he said were months of frustrating negotiations with the government over a recovery plan. Officials would offer ideas, he said, many of which were impractical, but refused to promise a specific level of financial aid. Kaplan said the hospital’s administration took serious steps to cut costs and increase revenue, but could not come to any agreement with the unions because he could not tell them how much government support the hospital could expect.

He denied that Hadassah medical staffs were on the whole paid more than the norm elsewhere in the health system. He said the staff had demonstrated responsibility by making concessions on wages and other issues, and noted that doctors had agreed to increase the amount the hospital received for private medical services (known in Hebrew as Sharap) by 25 million shekels annually.

But Kaplan warned that the hospital operations are being hurt by the chaos and uncertainty. He said scores of nurses had quit. “Nurse staffing in operating rooms is now very low, and we are having difficulty running them at the same pace as we are used to,” he said.